Editor Bernie Pacyniak hangs with Mr. Jelly Belly, who warmly receives visitors at the company’s Rayong facility in Thailand with a traditional Thai wai. 

Meet my new best friend in Thailand, Mr. Jelly Belly. And in case you haven’t noticed, he’s greeting visitors in the traditional Thai manner, the wai, which involves holding one’s hands together in a praying pose and bowing.

Call me strange, but I really enjoyed this greeting while I was in Thailand in mid-January. In today’s self-aggrandizing, showboat gestural world, it was refreshing to see a simple sign of respect.

The wai, however, wasn’t the only delight I discovered while on a press tour sponsored by Thailand’s Board of Investment. Aside from, in order of importance, people, plants, pluck (in response to the nation dealing with last year’s flood), food, weather and exotica, I also had the opportunity to visit the Jelly Belly Candy Co. plant in Rayong.

Herm Rowland Jr., the managing director of Jelly Belly Candy Co. (Thailand) Ltd., gave an in-depth presentation and tour of the operations to our press group, which included editors from various food magazines.

I was the only editor for a confectionery-specific publication, so it was wonderful to hear the positive comments all of the editors had regarding Herm Jr.’s openness and time spent with the group.

Later, in a one-on-one session with Herm Jr., I was able to get a more in-depth picture of what it took for the company to realize its investment in the facility as well as the ongoing commitment involved in keeping the plant operating at the highest Jelly Belly standards.

As with most “overnight” successes, this one began with a vision, one that Herm Rowland Sr., chairman of Jelly Belly Co., had the foresight to conceive and then the will to implement.

With the help of his father and Mike Bianco, sr. v.p. of manufacturing, Herm Jr. accepted the responsibility for overseeing the construction of the plant through its first shipment and now through several expansions. Today, Jelly Belly’s Rayong facility has become an integral component of the company’s surging international sales.
Last year, sales soared 25% and all indicators point to more of the same during the next three years. Sharon Duncan, v.p. of international sales for Jelly Belly, foresees a doubling of international sales by 2014.

It hasn’t been all lychee and dragon fruit, mind you. As Herm Jr. related to me, it’s been a learning process for him personally, one that’s helped him mature in a way nothing else could have.

From construction delays because of monsoon rains and contractor issues to cultural and language challenges, Herm Jr. has had his hands full. Yet, slowly, almost spiritually, the operation in Thailand has become an example of what can happen when a family-run, midsized confectionery company not only seizes, but manages an opportunity to its successful conclusion.

In this month’s cover story, readers will discover in more detail that process. What you won’t find out is that Herm Jr. has learned to speak the Thai language, embraced its customs, earned the respect of the Thais working for him and oversaw several successful additions, ranging from the installation of a 12,000-sq.ft. mezzanine to a 65,000-sq.-ft. plant expansion.

During this time he’s had support from Herm Sr., his father, Bianco, and Ambrose Lee, v.p. of research and development, amongst others.

In the end, however, oversight for the ongoing quality production of Jelly Belly beans in Rayong, rested with Herm Jr. And he delivered.

Now that’s a man who deserves some wai.